Is discipline a muscle?

I've never considered discipline to be a personal strength. I'm envious of people who present as well-disciplined. It's always felt like a thing I just can't do.

Last year I ran my first trail marathon, and I knew when I started training that if I wanted to finish the race without injury, I would need more discipline than I'd ever shown before. I told myself stories about how hard it was going to be for me to follow a training plan consistently.

At the end of my training I was proud of myself for being consistent in the face of doubt. I was also surprised at how easy it felt to stay consistent.

It was certainly made easier by COVID-19, as most of our other obligations and activities were cancelled. But I also never fell off the wagon of training. I never had a week where I made up excuses to avoid training.

There's also no doubt that the rewards for my discipline kept me going. There was an instant reward — feeling really good after a workout. There was also a potential long-term reward that I was really interested in — being one step closer to calling myself an ultra-marathoner.

This past month I've avoided alcohol and sweets — again I told myself stories about how hard it was going to be. But at the end...I honestly wanted to keep going. I've tried to improve my diet many times but this felt like the first time it wasn't unbearable. It wasn't nearly as hard as I expected it to be.

Anyway, this has me wondering 3 things:

  1. was I never as bad at discipline as I thought I was?
  2. am I only as disciplined as I am interested in the rewards?
  3. is discipline a muscle and I've finally figured out that I can train it?

I suspect it's at least a bit of all 3. #3 is the most exciting though because it gives me confidence that I can keep improving.